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Disney says DeSantis-appointed district is dragging its feet in providing documents for a lawsuit

Disney World Magic Kingdom Castle
Allison Varney
/
via WMFE

Disney says Walt Disney World’s governing district made up of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' appointees is dragging its feet in providing requested documents to the company in a lawsuit over who has design and construction powers over Disney’s sprawling theme park resort in central Florida.

Walt Disney World’s governing district made up of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' appointees is dragging its feet in providing requested documents to Disney in a lawsuit over who has design and construction powers over the company’s sprawling theme park resort in central Florida, Disney said in court papers.

Disney on Thursday accused the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District of “dodging its obligations” and asked a Florida judge to delay any decision on whether the case should proceed until the company gets documents and conducts depositions needed to argue against a summary judgement requested by the district.

A hearing is scheduled for mid-December. Disney is seeking a delay of two and a half months.

The district has “failed to produce a single document for nearly two months following Disney’s requests, broke commitments to agreed-upon deadlines, and remains in possession of discovery that Disney needs to develop its summary judgment opposition,” Disney said in court papers.

An email seeking comment was sent to a spokesman for the district.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, formerly called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, was controlled by Disney allies for more than five decades until it was taken over by DeSantis appointees earlier this year. The takeover of the district came after Disney publicly opposed a state law banning classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades. The law was championed by DeSantis, who currently is running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

Before control of the district changed hands from Disney allies to DeSantis appointees, the Disney supporters on its board signed agreements with Disney shifting control over design and construction at Disney World to the company and prohibiting the district from using the likeness of Disney characters or other intellectual property without Disney’s permission. The new DeSantis appointees claimed the “eleventh-hour deals” neutered their powers, and the district sued the company in state court to have the contracts voided.

Disney has filed counterclaims which include asking the state court to declare the agreements valid and enforceable. Disney also is seeking from DeSantis’ office and several state agencies internal communications, including text messages and emails, and documents.

“Productions to date have been nonexistent or woefully deficient,” Disney said in its court filing.

Disney and DeSantis and his allies also are battling in federal court, where the company has sued DeSantis, claiming the governor violated its free speech rights by punishing it for expressing opposition to the law. DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District have asked a federal judge to throw out Disney’s First Amendment lawsuit, calling it meritless.